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Notice of Hiatus

September 16, 2009

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Back Soon, Better Than Ever

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Dear Readers,

Our apologies for having gone AWOL the past few weeks; we’ve been busy settling back into law school life. No need to worry though, we’ll be back soon enough with plenty more beer reviews and additions like bar spotlights, brewery tours, seasonal recommendations and various other new features. Stay tuned for our imminent return. In the meantime, enjoy your beer and drink responsibly.

Cheers!

Anthony and Gatlin


La Maudite

August 25, 2009

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A Beer Fit For The Devil Himself

Anthony Says:


Maudite 1In addition to being one of my preferred first-wave punk bands, The Damned also happens to be the English translation of one of my favorite Canadian craft brews: “La Maudite”. A product of Quebec based Unibroue brewery, this Belgian-style strong dark ale derives its sinister moniker from the legend of La Chasse Galerie (The Flying Canoe). A staple of Quebecois folklore, La Chasse Galerie tells of a group of colonial era lumberjacks who made a pact with the devil in order to return home to their village in time for Christmas. In exchange for a pledge of their souls, the lumberjacks flew across the winter sky in a canoe helmed by the devil himself. The story ends variously with the lumberjacks returning home safely after having tricked the devil into preserving their souls, or with the canoe crashing to the earth after one of the lumberjacks invoked the name of god. Such ominous imagery notwithstanding, I can assure you that drinking one these won’t result in an eternity of fire and brimstone. Nevertheless, Maudite is a devilishly good beer.


Firstly, much as previously mentioned in our review of La Fin Du Monde, Unibroue’s bottling aesthetics are incomparable. Featuring a handsome image of a flying canoe, backlit by a crimson moon and crowned with a gothically inspired orange serif script, Maudite is no exception. In terms of visuals, the aesthetic pleasure of Maudite’s bottle design is matched only by the actual appearance of the beer: pouring a shade of deep mahogany with a thick lacing of pearl white foam. Much like several other Unibroue offerings, this is a beer brewed “on lees”, meaning only partially filtered and therefore containing a higher concentration of proteins and yeast. This becomes apparent in Maudite’s almost impenetrable cloudiness, and the noticeably darker color where the yeast settles in the bottom quarter of the glass.


The nose of this beer is complex bordering on indescribable. The overall aroma is something akin to a rum-ball crossed with scents of coriander, nutmeg, cloves, candied pears, figs and brandy. While the presence of alcohol is palpable- as one might expect from a brew with an 8% ABV content- it is nicely balanced by an effervescent twang of yeast. Quite honestly, Maudite is one of the most incredibly aromatic beers I’ve had the pleasure of trying. You could easily spend a good 20 minutes just absorbing its aromas and scents without even stopping to take a sip.


While the nose may suggest a sort of fragrant potpourri, Maudite has an equally dynamic flavor profile to match. The initial flavor here is of spicy cloves and coriander, followed by rich bready malts, bitter dark chocolate and sweet wine-like fruity esters: most notably apricot, pear and raisin. Following a mild flourish of alcohol warmth, Maudite finishes in a light peppery tartness that is pleasantly dry. A relatively high carbonation imparts a surprisingly crisp mouthfeel, which also helps to cleanse the sweetness of the malts off the palette and therefore prevents Maudite from feeling overly syrupy and thick.


Maudite is one hell of a brew- no pun intended. This is the beer I give to friends when they question the merit of sophisticated beer drinking. Unfortunately, while they usually concede that the complexity of Maudite is on par with the most refined whisky or cigar, they are usually slightly turned off by the sheer richness of its nose and flavor profile. Perhaps the best analogy can be drawn from the world of single-malt scotch whiskey. When introducing a newbie to scotch you would probably want to serve her a milder Speyside, rather than a fiery peat-rich highland or Islay variety. Much in the same regard, Maudite is not the type of beer that is well suited to the uninitiated; the complex array of aromas and flavors typical to this style of beer can simply be overwhelming.
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Gatlin Says:


Maudite 2This beer is all about class- the curious name immortalizing a French Canadian legend; the artistically decorated bottle; the fancy cork and cage. It doesn’t end there. The qualities of this beer in terms of appearance, smell and taste, are on another level as compared to most brews. This beer proudly and triumphantly ventures into wine drinkers territory and does so without compromise. If you are looking for something to enjoy alongside a fine and robust dinner, this is likely your best bet.


Technical Rundown:

  • Container: 750 ml brown glass bomber, with cork and cage
  • Alcohol: 8% by volume, 6.40% by weight
  • Color: 20 SRM
  • Bitterness: 26 IBU

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Poured into a tulip glass, Maudite conjured up an amazing, white to off-white, 2½ finger head. The head receded to a small-bubbled film in a moderate amount of time and left some minor lacing. The body of this beer is a sight to see: deep ruby, burgundy, mahogany. Maudite is cloudy with little to no visible carbonation.


The smell of this beer can only be described as insane. I had to sit, smell and think for at least 25 minutes before I could even begin to comprehend its complexity. Grapes, berry, apricot, sweet fruits, rum, chocolate could all be identified. Overlaying everything is a very persistent yeastiness that is bready and lightly musty.


The taste wasn’t quite as awe inspiring as the smell, but was nonetheless outstanding. Grapey, wine-like berriness, with subtle hints of dried fruits, registered right away and then faded into a lingering yeasty spiciness. Perfectly balanced and complex, yet totally refined. Maudite would make a perfect substitute for a fine red wine.


Julien-chasse————————-


Some Final Thoughts


Anthony Thinks:

Pros
  • Incredibly complex nose and flavor profile
  • Surprisingly crisp for a beer this sweet
  • Great bottle design!

Cons

  • Bomber bottle unwieldy- not always available in standard sized beer bottles
  • Incredibly complex nose and flavor profile (!)
  • Strong flavors can make this an awkward beer to drink- probably better consumed on occasion

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4½ stars with a caveat. For the more experienced beer drinker, Maudite is undoubtedly a near world-class brew. Unfortunately, it would rank far lower for those less acclimated to this particular style of beer. Scoring poorly in overall drinkability, Maudite would perhaps be best served to neophytes as a dessert beer paired with something spicy or tart


Gatlin Thinks:

Pros:

  • Complex aromas and flavors
  • Outstandingly crisp- no hint of the 9% alcohol content
  • Amazing quality

Cons:

  • Can be overwhelming for unseasoned beer drinkers
  • 9% alcohol content can sneak-up on you

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A solid 4½ star Belgian strong dark ale. Maudite would easily have achieved a 5 star rating had it not been for the many exemplary brews included within this style of beer. Nevertheless, it is perfect for someone looking to pair a robust dinner with an equally robust beverage


So, What’s On Your Mind?

Toronto Festival of Beer 2009

August 15, 2009

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Caskapalooza’d

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Caska - bacl

A quick word of appreciation is needed for the thousands who braved the torrential rains to stop by Toronto’s Festival of Beer last weekend. A number of quality breweries- both local and international- were represented and it seems that most people had an enjoyable (and responsible) day or two out sampling great beers and good food.


Our pick for event of the weekend was Great Lakes “Caskapalooza”. Featuring 20 one-off cask ales brewed over only 4 days, hats off to Peter, John and the rest of the team at Great Lakes Brewery for pulling this together; it was worth the price of admission alone. Hope to see Snaggle Tooth Pumpkin Ale, Black Forest Porter and Superior IPA in stores in the future.


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So, What’s On Your Mind?

Dogfish Head 120 Minute India Pale Ale

August 15, 2009

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DogFish Head’s Extreme Adventure

Anthony Says:


IMG_0835Brewed with an inordinate amount of hops, and featuring a staggering 20% alcohol by volume content, it is fitting that Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA arouses some strong opinions. My initial impression upon hearing of this beer was of some sort of volatile isotope; a bottle gingerly removed from a steaming canister of liquid nitrogen. I quite honestly half expected to fall to the floor clutching my throat after sampling this beast of a brew. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt the least bit nervous about the prospects of drinking a beer.


While this impression may have been a bit overly dramatic, drinking 120 Minute IPA is an experience unlike any other. It is, after all, well outside the bounds of anything one normally associates with beer. 120 Minute IPA makes Barley Wine look like Malta. This is high-powered stuff, folks. Having had no idea what to expect from a beer that is closer to a Port than the average IPA, I was pleased to discover yet another exceptional brew from Dogfish Head.


120 Minute IPA poured a brilliant dark maple/golden color with a surprising amount of carbonation. While the head was disappointingly wispy and thin, I suspect this was largely a consequence of the cheap hotel bar glass I was forced to use. A more impressive head would likely be generated by a proper tulip glass or snifter. The nose can best be described as a typical IPA on steroids: floral hops, pine and sharp citrus aromas are immediately and heavily discernable. However, unlike most other IPAs, the sweet scent of malt maintains a dominating presence. Combined with a palpable fusel alcohol, the nose almost reminded me of brandy or perhaps spiced dark rum (Captain Morgan, is that you?).


The taste of 120 Minute IPA is incredibly dense and complex. An initially molasses like sweetness is quickly subsumed by a secondary wave of spicy citrus hops flavors. You can really feel the hops and malts battling to mask the massive alcohol content of this beer. While 120 Minute IPA may be far less bitter than it is malty and sweet, there is nevertheless a cloying alcohol astringency that is unavoidable for a beer this strong.


Ultimately, drinking this beer can only be described as an experience. While it comes in a standard sized beer bottle, you don’t drink 120 Minute IPA as much as you sip it like a fine wine or scotch. The slightly sticky mouth feel- imparted by its heavy malt character- further places it more firmly amongst distilled spirits than fermented alcohol beverages. Indeed, in 120 Minute IPA, Dogfish Head has produced a brew so extreme that it lies on the outer reaches of what can properly be considered as beer. It says much of the quality of Dogfish Head’s craftsmanship that 120 Minute not only retains the qualities of a beer at the strength of a spirit, but also stays true to the IPA style.

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Gatlin Says:


IMG_0839 I have waited a very long time to try this one. Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA has become a sort of mythical beast in my mind: both illusory and fantastic at the same time. It is next to impossible to find this beer in Canada. In fact, the only place I know where one can obtain a bottle is at Beer Bistro on King Street in Toronto, Ontario. So I was very proud to finally climb the mountain that is 120 Minute IPA, and did so in the company of both friends and family.


(Note: Just so that everyone appreciates the effort that went into this review, I had to write my notes on the paper tablecloth and look like a huge dork in front of a restaurant of poshly dressed patrons)


Technical Rundown:

  • Container: 12 ounce brown glass bottle
  • Alcohol: 20% by volume
  • Color: 13 SRM
  • Bitterness: 120 IBU

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Poured slow to the center of a brandy snifter, this beer generated a small off-white head which slowly reduced to a large-bubbled film. Moderate lacing was observable. The body showed very little visible carbonation and was a cloudy, tawny, dark copper. The smell from this beer was intense and complex. Alcohol was quite noticeable and reminded me very much of a barley wine. Notes of resinous pine, lemon and a ton of fruits like fig, prune and apricot made me want to jump into the glass. A hint of rum or brandy was present on the finish.


The taste was very much like a barley wine. Dark fruits and alcohol exploded in my mouth with hints of pear and apricot. The bitterness was not even remotely overwhelming and had a great bitter apple-like flavor. The malt backbone was definitely well laid to support all the hopping. Great malty flavors of tawny port and sweet toffee really balanced everything out nicely. The finish was dry but not overly astringent. Far too boozy to be super drinkable but the flavors could keep me going for two servings.


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Some Final Thoughts


Anthony Thinks:

Pros
  • A truly unique beer
  • Sheer amount of hops and malt pumped into this brew is impressive
  • A nice midway point between a beer and a spirit

Cons

  • Scores low on drinkability- you aren’t going to be drinking this at your Superbowl party
  • Formidable alcohol content requires careful consumption
  • Aftertaste is unpleasantly syrupy and sweet

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4½ stars. 120 Minute IPA is a tough beer to rate. I can’t imagine, and probably wouldn’t advise, drinking more than one of these in a single sitting. Likewise, this isn’t a brew I’d recommend to anyone but a seasoned beer drinker. That having been said, it is simply hard to overlook the craftsmanship, quality and utter distinctiveness of this beer


Gatlin Thinks:

Pros:

  • Big, flavorful and boozy
  • Complexity is through the roof
  • You will be hard-pressed to find anything comparable

Cons:

  • Very hard to get your hands on north of the border
  • A little pricey
  • Extremely boozy

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As an extreme beer (think Sam Adams Triple Bock or Utopias) 120 Minute IPA is a clear 5 star brew. As a double IPA or imperial IPA it’s a solid 4½ star brew. I personally think anyone given the opportunity should try this one at least once. Whiskey, brandy and rum drinkers may particularly enjoy sipping down a bottle


So, What’s On Your Mind?

Fuller’s Extra-Special Bitter

August 9, 2009

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Good, But Not Quite Special

Anthony Says:


ESB 1Between their complicated common law system, awful food and backwards driving, the British are pretty much the non-conformists of Europe. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that while lager beer reigns supreme on the continent, Britain has remained a bastion of ale brewing. Yet, in spite of its many contributions in this regard, Britain maintains a dismal reputation amongst North American beer drinkers. It seems that most people here associate British beer with warm tepid cask ale and drunken soccer hooligans running amok. For others like myself, however, it conjures up images of stuffy centuries old pubs and affable working class blokes quaffing pints of “bitter”. And when I think of bitter, Fuller’s ESB is the beer that immediately comes to mind.


ESB pours a copper, reddish brown with a medium white frothy head. The nose is heavy on fragrant malt aromas: scents of grain and sweet brown sugar are accentuated by a mildly grape-like fruitiness. Complex flavors of caramel, raisins and slightly overripe fruit easily match the malty nose. While ESB is quite light in respect to bitter hops character, a zesty herbal spiciness and slightly acrid punch of toasted grains nicely offset the otherwise malt-centric flavor profile. In my opinion, the most interesting part of this brew is the mouthfeel. I’d have expected something a little syrupy for a beer that is this sweet, yet the mouthfeel is full-bodied, nicely crisp and pleasantly smooth and oily in texture.


I can’t really claim to be a huge fan of this style of beer; the combination of sweetness and spice reminds me of something more akin to an autum seasonal or a winter ale. Nevertheless, I can say with conviction that you will be hard pressed to find a better quality bitter than Fuller’s ESB. Probably the greatest testament to the quality of this beer is that it gets better as it warms. Rather than turning into an oppressively sweet malty sludge, the flavors shine through ever brighter. Indeed, it’s perhaps not all that surprising that the British like their bitter served at room temperature.

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Gatlin Says:


ESB 2I find the Brits generally have a hard time impressing me when it comes to any sort of pale ale. While this particular brew does have some great qualities, it nevertheless does not score a homerun in my books.


Technical Rundown:

  • Container: Tall Boy can, no widget
  • Alcohol: 5.9% by volume
  • Color: 20 SRM
  • Bitterness: 35 IBU

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Out of the can and into a new Spiegelau crystal tasting tulip; there emerges a 1.5 finger, off-white, foamy head. The head stuck around quite nicely and yielded some minor lacing. The body was a light shade of golden mahogany with minimal visible carbonation. Scents of oak, vanilla, old leather, plum and raison or grape came through very nicely in the nose. A minor alcohol smell with some date-like sweetness was also detectable.


The taste of old leather came through strongly when swirled in the mouth. Leather is not a very common beer flavor, but I suspect it is really just a combination of musty / caramelly malts combined with astringent bitterness. The finish was well balanced with pleasantly sweet flavors and a lightly cleansing bitterness.


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ESB 3
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Some Final Thoughts


Anthony Thinks:

Pros
  • Great array of malt flavors
  • Distinct mouthfeel
  • Can be consumed while warm- good outdoors beer

Cons

  • A little too sweetish for my liking (although there is no cloying aftertaste)
  • Maltiness dissuades drinking more than one or two
  • Style can generally be off-putting for those used to heavily hopped ales and/or lagers

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3½ stars. ESB demonstrates an excellent range of malt flavors. As far as bitters go, this could be a marquee brew for the style. Nevertheless, it is a little too one-dimensional to make for a beer I’d regularly reach for. Recommended for beer drinkers who enjoy complex brews that are slightly sweeter in flavor


Gatlin Thinks:

Pros:

  • Balanced flavours
  • Very nice appearance
  • Quality craftsmanship

Cons:

  • Doesn’t really stand out
  • I think one would tire of this beer rather quickly
  • Only available in a can (at least in Canada)

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Overall, this is a 3½ star bitter. Some good features here, but not really all that great. For all I know this may very well be the best choice for relaxing after partaking in some typically British activity- anyone who regularly wears a Tillley hat, enjoys foxhunting or plays cricket may “fancy” this beer


So, What’s On Your Mind?

Beer Summit 2009

August 3, 2009

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Beer: The Great Unifier


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The race politics row that recently engulfed the United States (Gates-Gate?) culminated this past week in the “Beer Summit” held on the White House lawn. Sharing a friendly chat over a couple brews, President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, Sgt. James Crowley and Henry Louis Gates proved what beer-drinkers throughout the world already knew: there is nothing like a good session to smooth over differences and bring people together. Let’s take a look at the brews selected for the Beer Summit and comment briefly on what they say about the respective participants.


Obama → Bud Light

  • This beer screams “generic everyman” and really seems to fit Obama’s popular image. While a regular Bud may have been a little too pedestrian for such a cosmopolitan individual, it would have garnered him extra brownie points amongst the Joe-Six Packs of Middle America. It seems this selection was based more on image than on actual taste; I doubt that Obama would otherwise voluntarily imbibe this watered-down excuse of a beer.


Joe Biden → Buckler

  • Is this even really a beer? No.


Sgt. Crowley → Blue Moon

  • Some have pointed out that it is slightly ironic that Sgt. Crowley, one of the principal protagonists of the Gates-Gate race controversy, selected a weissbier at the Beer Summit. It is, perhaps, rather ill advised to select a brew that is known as a “white beer” after having been accused of being a racist. Yet, considering that he drank a Belgian style beer produced in Toronto, Canada, I think it far more interesting that he’d choose such a patently un-American brew.


Henry Louis Gates → Sam Adam Light

  • Ding Ding Ding. We have a winner folks. Henry Louis Gates’ selection is a worthy one, and surprisingly astute for an ivory tower academe. Produced by American craft brewery Boston Beer Co., Sam Adams Light is not only a nod to his New England home state, but also a jab at those big-beer fat-cats that are ruining America. Perfect for a left-wing Ivey League scholar! Overall, this is a quality beer made by an excellent brewer, and for this HLG wins the “Best Choice” award for Beer Summit 09’.


The Big Winner

  • The folks down at Anheuser-Busch (Bud), MillerCoors (Blue Moon) and Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams), who can except a nice jump in sales after their brews were featured in the Beer Summit.



So, What’s On Your Mind?


Liberty Pale Ale

July 29, 2009

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A Liberating Libation

Anthony Says:


Liberty 1I’m not all that proud to admit it, but the first time I tried Anchor Liberty Ale was for this review. I’ve been eyeing it at my local liquor store for years, but for some reason I just never got around to purchasing it. I even went to the store to buy a few bottles for an Independence Day party this past year, but wound up walking out with a six of Sam Adam’s Boston Lager (not that I regret this decision). Liberty Ale has sort of been the “beer that got away” for me, I suppose. On the other hand, however, Gatlin has been a fan of this brew for quite some time; I’ve got to thank him for finally picking up a couple to review, because otherwise it seems this quality beer would have continued to fly under my radar.


Liberty Ale pours a deep golden hue with a thick bubbly head-pretty much the standard appearance for any good pale ale. Nose is a pronounced pine and citrus, underlain by light floral scents and a hint of sappy malt. Hop aromas shine through nicely, far more so than most pale ales. You can really tell that this beer has been “dry hopped”, meaning fresh hops have been added after the initial boil, thus adding to aroma and flavor without affecting bitterness.


Dry hopping is also apparent in the initially sharp palette bite of herbal citrus hops; this is followed by flourishes of vanilla and honey, and finishes in a lightly lingering caramel malt flavor. With a nicely understated carbonation, Liberty Ale’s mouthfeel is pleasantly full-bodied for the style.


This is a really great American pale ale. While the heavy presence of hops might initially lead one to think IPA, Liberty Ale isn’t at all spicy and retains a perfect balance between hops and malts. This has all the qualities of a great session beer. Perhaps my only complaint would be that, at 6% alcohol content, it’s a little on the strong-side for the style. That having been said, I will definitely be leaving the store with these in hand more often.

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Gatlin Says:


Liberty 2 Ahhhhh, Liberty. The sweet goddess walking endlessly by the shores of our individual actualization and hedonistic tendencies. She is the gatekeeper to both our desires and all that we shun. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of Liberty”. Trust me my friends, this beer is tempestuous. Named in commemoration of Paul Revere (who I dressed as for Halloween this past year, but was commonly mistaken for a conservative pirate) and his historic ride, Anchor’s Liberty Ale is currently the best American pale ale available in Ontario.


Technical Rundown:

  • Container: 650 ml brown glass bottle
  • Alcohol: 5.9% by volume, 4.80% by weight
  • Color: 6 SRM
  • Bitterness: 47 IBU

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This beer poured a massive, bright-white head that stuck around forever and left a huge amount of lacing on the glass. The body was slightly hazy and pale, orange-gold in colour. A high amount of carbonation was observed. Pretty much the perfect American pale ale in appearance.


On the nose were strong scents of citrus and pine with very mild malts. Simple yet pleasant, the aroma is ideal for the style. Once swirled in the mouth, a resinous pine flavour emerged, followed by a sharp spicy hop bite and nicely cleansing citrus undercurrent. Subtle oak and vanilla malts were noticeable on the backend. This beer is just so damn good. If it’s available in your area, go pick up a bottle and give it a try.


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Liberty 3
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Some Final Thoughts


Anthony Thinks:

Pros
  • Excellent balance between hops and malts
  • Great beer for all occasions
  • Extremely drinkable

Cons

  • Almost closer to an IPA than a pale ale
  • Not sold in regular sized beer bottles (at least in Canada)
  • A little too strong for a session beer

  • 4 stars. Liberty Ale is a well crafted American pale ale of exceptional quality- perhaps even the benchmark of the style. My sole concern is that 6% alcohol content is just a little too strong for a good session brew, especially one that is so dangerously drinkable


Gatlin Thinks:

Pros:

  • Perfect aromas and flavors for the style
  • Really well crafted (one of the best outside of the trappists)
  • Very drinkable and refreshing without sacrificing flavor

Cons:

  • British pale ale lovers may be overwhelmed by the hop presence

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This is a solid 4½ star American pale ale. Anyone can and should drink this beer. Perfect for a summer BBQ and goes especially well with fish-and-chips!


So, What’s On Your Mind?

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